Support the nuke deal; support the oppressors
One of the predicted outcomes of the nuclear deal with Iran, contrary to what President Barack Obama claimed, is that it would strengthen the hands of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the “hardliners” in the regime. (I don’t believe there are moderates in the regime. It is a revolutionary regime that seeks to export its ideology across the region. President Hassan Rouhani would not have been allowed to compete or win if he did not subscribe to the same ideologies as the hardliners.) Rather than opening up or liberalizing Iran, the deal was correctly predicted to lead to further repression.
Shortly after the deal was announced, (and even before the nuclear sanctions were totally suspended,) the Times reported, “it seems that hard-liners, using the intelligence unit of the Revolutionary Guards Corps, have started rounding up journalists, activists, and cultural figures, as a warning that the post nuclear-deal period cannot lead to further relaxation or political demands.”
In July 2016, (six months after implementation of the deal and the suspension of all nuclear-related sanctions), Reuters reported that “hardliners are gaining authority.” (The news item portrayed Rouhani as a moderate, at odds with the hardliners, a somewhat misleading portrayal.) Perhaps more important, Reuters noted, “Khamenei’s allies control the bulk of financial resources as well as the judiciary, the security forces, public broadcasters and the Guardian Council which vets laws and election candidates.”
A month later The Wall Street Journal reported similarly, “For all his complaints about American treachery, Mr. Khamenei and his allies recognize that the nuclear deal has produced significant benefits for their hobbled theocracy and may serve to further entrench the regime brought to power in the 1979 revolution.”
The recent protests in Iran attest to the division between the Iranian people and their increasingly repressive leadership – the protests have been quelled somewhat since the IRGC was called in to put them down – and yet, The New York Times and The Washington Post both argued in editorials that the best way to help Iran’s protesters is to keep the nuclear deal in place.
A Times editorial last Tuesday noted the turmoil in Iran and wrote:
All this reveals a real struggle for Iran’s soul that requires an approach more sophisticated than Mr. Trump’s, which would exploit the turmoil to justify reneging on the nuclear deal. That would free Iran to resume nuclear activities and enable new sanctions that would shift Iranian rage from Tehran to Washington.
Similarly a Post editorial last week argued:
Voiding the deal by reapplying sanctions now, however, would not be a solution. Instead, it would split the United States from its partners in the accord — the European Union, Russia and China — and give Iran an opening to resume nuclear activity immediately. It would also distract from the grievances being raised by Iranian protesters by providing the regime with an external threat, an excuse for further economic failures.
The nuclear deal freed up billions of dollars that could have turned Iran’s economy around. Instead, it went to the clerics and IRGC who hold the real power in the regime. Re-imposing sanctions, even nuclear ones, further alienate Iran’s elites from the masses, who already feel alienated from the regime.
As far as the warning that leaving the nuclear deal would “shift Iranian rage from Tehran to Washington” (Times) or “providing the regime with an external threat (Post), the Times reported just the protests broke out that Trump had united all of Iran against the United States. The protests put a lie to that report, but it didn’t stop the Times from asserting last week that regular Iranians would turn against the United States for leaving the nuclear deal.
As far as the fear that leaving the nuclear deal will allow Iran to go ahead with its nuclear weapons program, the truth is that we don’t know that Iran isn’t doing so. So far the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which is supposed to monitor Iran’s compliance with the deal has not been allowed to inspect any military sites – the places where Iran is believed to have done most of its nuclear weapons research. Its a huge hole in the deal that its supporters wave off saying that the deal ensures “unprecedented” inspections. A fat lot of good those inspections will be if they’re not looking in the right places.
So both the Times and the Post, though neither will admit it, are supporting regime against the protesters. They advocate the continued support of the repressive regime as well as its full funding. There is no other way to look at it.
What is important to remember is that the nuclear deal, despite what its proponents say, was never just about Iran’s nuclear program. It was about normalizing Iran’s behavior across the board. We see this from the way the Obama administration shut down investigations into Hezbollah or used the illegal capture of U.S. sailors as an object lesson in diplomacy (instead of Iranian aggression) or its silence when Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who is under an international travel ban traveled to Moscow to enlist Russia’s help in propping up Assad (which cost thousands of lives). In each case, the United States led the world in appeasing Iran, lest Iran get angry and pull out of the nuclear deal.
Continuing to support the nuclear deal in the face of Iranian oppression and aggression is appeasement.
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